Dreamed 1997/8/2 by Chris Wayan
My friend Mark and I go to a contra dance in San Francisco. I dance a lot at first; have fun waltzing with a cute blonde in a red dress, with narrow, almost Asian eyes, startling next to her pale hair. Then a frizz-haired girl in a white dress who likes to swing wildly--very sexy and fun.
But the second half, in dance after dance, I try to ask women to dance and they look right through me. Several even look pointedly away or shake their heads--or am I projecting? Not one partner. The slight surplus of men means a few must sit out each dance, but they're different ones--except me. I get up and enter the crowd like they do, but I come out alone again--every time.
A first I think "I got partners at first because no one knew yet how badly I danced, but after a few dances everyone knew, and avoided me." But as I watch, it's clear there are plenty of newcomers who dance worse than I do. It's something else. The last time I tried contra dance, same pattern.
Finally I look inward. Hurt and insulted, yes. But resigned, too? Back in familiar territory! I was skipped way ahead in school, was the youngest by far. Got shunned, taunted and bashed in middle school.
A relief to sit out! Now I don't have to perform, compete, fit in. Dull, but in the first half, competing, I ignored a lot of stress. Maybe I exhausted myself and just couldn't hide it.
Mark's mad that he didn't ask for the phone number of a girl he liked. I listen, but can't empathize much--he rarely got turned down, and danced with women I admired who looked right through me. He's puzzled I was rejected so consistently, says I don't look bad, wasn't doing anything rude he could see. In fact it's considered a bit rude to refuse to dance once--giving strangers a chance is part of the culture. "Did you actually ask them? Or make eye contact and hesitate? Maybe they saw that as you rejecting them--people choose fast."
If so, the moments between dances are just too brief for me to set aside the hesitation beaten into me. The structure sets me up to fail.
Going to bed, I ask my dream to show me just what caused the change from first half to second--and what to do.
I'm living on a barren plain--all that's left of Los Angeles. Low hills inland. No trees, just a few stumps. All cut for firewood. Angelenos have degraded along with their land, back into a poor people impressed by much the same things that the North Africans were, after Rome fell--mystics, desert hermits and column sitters. Why not? THIS world's ruined. What's left but the next?
I'm a hermit--or rather an outcast; hermit is the only role available for me, maimed as I am. I lost a hand at the wrist, and one leg at the hip. I can't recall how--an accident, or a punishment for a crime? Half a man--I can't work, so I'm forced to beg--or pick pockets.
But I turn my lack to an advantage. I'm much lighter than a whole man, and my remaining leg is built to lift a whole man, so I can jump much higher than anyone else, almost fly in fact. I leap like a ballet star, floating a long time at the top of the arc as if in lunar gravity.
I want to find a column or tree others can't climb, and make it my nest and start collecting my gleanings. But all the trees have been burned. A few rocks and crags with caves, a couple of huge stumps, the last reminders of the extinct redwoods--but no living trees and no columns I can leap to the top of that others can't climb.
My compensatory gift is useless, in a land with no heights.
I head inland, exploring the low hills, hoping. My friend Mark tags along. We find a cave mouth, opening into a huge lava tube. Doors and windows have been crudely knocked out. And holes into another tube beside it... and another. Huge airy caves, ferny by the doors, semi-furnished with rock shelves and tables. The whole row's unoccupied. At least ten suites, different colors and sizes, but all leading deep into the hills. In fact their roofs ARE the hills. Where one roof has fallen in, you can see it's quite a thin shell. Such accidental skylights form lovely atrium gardens. Strange that the caves are empty--they're quite livable. Though wrong for me: I need a height. A height others can't reach...
The last lava tube feels different. I know it's the last before I even enter it. The roof is gone, all the way down: it's a tiny canyon open to the sky, with a creeklet trickling through. The end of the lava row.
I wade in the stream. Mark just watches. I fish with my one hand, bare, no lure--and catch a couple of speckled trout, one a foot long, one about seven inches. I'm not sure if they're male or female. I don't think I'll eat them; got something else in mind. I'm a miracle worker after all.
Oh! This is how I'll find a girlfriend--I'll breed one out of fish and dogs! It must be done without oppressing or bothering any female of course, that's why the fish is ideal; she just lays the eggs into gravel, sex doesn't involve penetration, she never goes through birth.
I'll just turn Mark into a trout for a minute, he can mate with the fish, creating, with luck and some magic, at least a few viable were-trout.
Then I'll transform the most viable female fingerling into a puppy. Raised as a dog, the were-trout-girl will grow fast, acquire warm mammalian emotions, and bond to me deeply. A dog won't know or care that I'm only half a man!
When she goes into heat, I'll remove the spell and she'll have the joy of exploring both trout and human forms. She should have the were-power to switch as she pleases. And with any luck, she'll love me. Half-woman, half-trout... half-man! We'll have so much in common!
This elaborate breeding program is the only hope for love I can see. I worry about it going wrong, talk to my friends about it. Decide I have to risk it. All I can do is check for, and eliminate, known genetic defects, both trout and human, in the were-fetus. That's more than humans do for their kids, and trout do even less. I'll do it. I'll breed a were-girl--despite the risk.
IN THE MORNING
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